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2014 Retrospective

by Wayne on December 17, 2014

Wayne and Layne is a two person electronics company in Minneapolis. We design and sell electronic kits and projects for kids and adults, beginners and experts. Most of our products are sold online, but some of our products are sold in retail stores across the world!

So far, we’ve given away all our designs. This is so you can learn how we put it together, but we believe so much in giving the designs away that we’re willing to let you do anything with our designs–even to make your own kits for sale. We ask that if you use our designs, you give away your modifications too. (A link and some credit would be nice too!) This is called open source hardware.

We also do design work for other people, like Kickstarters and museum exhibits. Most of this work isn’t open source, but it helps fund our open source work. (We also explicitly reserve the right to release new products that are not open source.)

It might not look like it from our blog, shame shame, but 2014 has been an amazing year for Wayne and Layne! We finished a lot of awesome projects with clients, got an office, put a bunch of cool tools in it, worked on new products, and improved a lot of things behind-the-scenes. On top of that, we worked on open source software like Kicad that everyone can use for free, and your purchases of our products helps us volunteer!

You can follow us here, on Twitter at @wayneandlayne, and Adam and Matthew both have Twitter accounts: @adamwwolf and @mbeckler.

We have an office!

Up until April or so, all of Wayne and Layne was at Adam or Matthew’s apartments, and we’d meet with clients at coffee shops or hackerspaces. This worked great when Wayne and Layne was just starting out, but now that we’re more established, we were outgrowing the space we could carve out of our apartments. It also meant we had to buy twice as much of everything, or ship things around and it seemed like we never had what we needed where we needed it. Now that Matthew and Adam both live in Minneapolis, this seemed like a waste. This came to a head when Adam had to clear out his Wayne and Layne office to turn it into a nursery. (!!!) We tried storing all our inventory in a storage unit, continuing to work from our apartments, but after a month, we decided to look for an office. We looked at some online listings, then put the call out on Twitter, and it didn’t take long before we found a great spot.

We have some space in Minneapolis that isn’t fancy but

  • has a great landlord
  • is on good bus lines
  • we can afford
  • is across from a Chinese place that serves xiao long bao

so really, we can’t ask for more!

We have some awesome equipment in our office!

In our new space, we have a pick and place machine, reflow oven, hot air station, stereo microscope souped up for assembly, as well as a laser cutter, an Othermill, and a reliable 3D printer! We also have less fancy equipment, like a shipping station with label printer, laser printer, scale, and barcode scanner. We don’t plan on doing large manufacturing runs in our space, but we’ve definitely leveled up on the prototyping we can do in-house!

We finished our work on the Choosatron!

The Choosatron is a little interactive fiction gaming device funded on Kickstarter. Jerry brought us in before the Kickstarter launched to help with the PCB layout and to help design for manufacturing. It’s just about ready to ship, and it’s turned out even better than we expected.

We made more museum exhibits!

We continued our partnership with a local museum exhibit design company, and helped with lots of new exhibits. Our exhibits this year are all over the US, including right here at the Minnesota State Fair! We had our hand in quite a few of the exhibits you see in the Energy Building. With the museum exhibits, we began to see some patterns in our “one-off” designs, and are investigating how to turn some of those into products. We have some exciting news about our partnership, but can’t reveal it yet. (You can see examples of our museum work at

We invented new wearable visual effects with Dessa!

We did a pair of projects with Dessa! We had talked previously on a project that fell through due to scheduling issues with overseas suppliers. This year, she came to us with some rough ideas of wearable visual effects she wanted for a show. (One idea was a still from a cartoon.) We completely blew it out of the water! Everyone was really impressed (including us) by how awesome they turned out. More details here!

We presented at Maker Faire NY!

We were unable to make it to Maker Faire SF this year–Adam was too close to becoming a new dad that his wife couldn’t fly and he couldn’t risk being away, but we did make it to Maker Faire NYC in September. We gave two presentations, one on Lego and Arduino robotics, and another on low-cost pick-and-place machines where we announced our Kicad-to-TM240A converter program.

We supported open source software, like Kicad!

We often write patches for bugs we find in the software we use. We have a one or two line patch in Jenkins, for example. We don’t really keep track of those.

However, in 2014, there were some changes to the Kicad leadership, and we’ve been much more involved since then. We have been spending *lots of hours* since September working on getting usable Mac builds coming out of a continuous integration server. There is a Kicad dev team priority of an official “stable” release on Windows, OS X, and Linux. We’ve got team buy-in on a real feature freeze before stable release–it’s going to be slick, folks! Combined with the amazing work that CERN is doing, like the push-and-shove router, OpenGL acceleration, and the upcoming RF improvements, we are extremely excited to see what Kicad looks like at the end of 2015!

Some of the stuff we did is completely behind the scenes, for example:

We redid all our internal infrastructure.

We completely revamped almost all of our internal infrastructure. This doesn’t mean a lot to you, but we have an easier time getting the right stuff done that we need to in order to be successful. Our revamp also dramatically increases our disaster recoverability. After we did this, we had a 1TB SSD containing ten virtual machines completely die without warning, and we were back up and running within an hour or two! (With no website interruption, I might add!)

This was by no means a complete list of our work this year, just the highlights.

Quick ones:

  • Adam wrote two chapters for an upcoming book, “Maker Pro”: an interview with Emile Petrone of Tindie, and an essay about the Blinky Grid and Blinky POV retail launch.
  • We taught a weeklong class at Leonardo’s Basement to teenagers on Minecraft and digital logic. We built things in Minecraft with Redstone, and in real life with breadboards, LEDs and switches, and 7400 logic chips.
  • We taught a half-day class on working with EL wire at Leonardo’s Basement.
  • Adam went to PyCon for the first time, and started a “Python + Embedded” room.
  • We’re on an advisory board for an unannounced project that you’ll definitely hear about in 2015!

What’s coming up?

We don’t like to announce our stuff too far ahead of time, but we’re far enough along in some projects that we’ll let them slip out here:

  • New Bricktronics hardware and software
    We did a lot of Bricktronics work this year. We have new Bricktronics (our LEGO Mindstorms + Arduino line) products ready to be released. They’re waiting on the other cool Bricktronics thing we did this year, which was to revamp the software support and make it even more beginner friendly, while opening up some more options for more advanced programmers. This new software support relies on some features of the Arduino IDE which are not available in the official builds, but is coming soon.
  • A stable, usable OS X Kicad release
  • More products, and a new product line
    We’re excited to get back to our roots with new products!
  • More museum exhibits
  • A new website
  • A new shipping backend
    This is probably boring to you, but it means means more accurate (cheaper) shipping, order status notifications, and your order will go from ordered to shipped even faster!

That’s about all–I have a brand-new Othermill to play with when I’m done with this post.

Happy hacking, folks!

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3 Comments Leave one →
  1. Brian Schmalz permalink

    You guys are so freeking awesome. The fact that you both hold down full time engineering jobs, Adam has a little Adventure to take care of and Matthew is still in the throngs of PHD land makes all of this Wayne & Layne stuff seem all that more impressive. I wish I were half has productive. W&L rocks! I can’t wait for all of the cool stuff you guys will come out with in 2015!

  2. Bravo! A great year indeed and glad I got to hang out with you guys for a bit at MFNY. Looking forward to 2015!

  3. This is so great to read. I cannot wait to hear more about all of it, especially the museum exhibits. Congratulations to both of you!

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